Royal Dublin end 47-year drought

Dublin might be waiting to take on Kerry in Sunday’s All Ireland Football final but it was a Mayo man who was beaming brightly at Carton House yesterday as Royal Dublin ended their 47-year wait for victory in the AIG Barton Shield.

The men from the Dollymount links outclassed Galway, winning by 12 holes over the O’Meara Course at the Co Kildare venue with neither match getting past the 14th green.

“Maybe we buried the curse today and proved that a manager from Mayo really can win an All-Ireland,” joked team manager Mick Chambers, a Mayo native who has been living in Dublin for 25 years, as he walked away from his four-year stint with a trophy.

Shaun Carter and Jeff Hopkins were three-under-par as they came back from one down after three holes against an erratic Joe Lyons and Stephen Brady, winning five holes in a row from the fourth to go four up and then three more on the spin from the 11th to close out the match and Royal Dublin’s first Barton Shield since 1968.

With Sligo man Barry Anderson and Cork’s Ian O’Rourke five up on Ronan Mullarney and Colm Hughes in the match behind, the Dublin side were 12 holes to the good with 11 remaining and champions at last.

“We were quite disappointed last year when we came out on the wrong end of a really good, sporting semi-final against Warrenpoint,” Chambers said. “We sat down and we went back to it and reapplied ourselves and got into our preparation for Leinster and this week.”

Galway’s Joe Lyons had no complaints about the defeat, adding: “Hats off to Royal Dublin, they totally outclassed us. We didn’t play well on the day and even if we had, I don’t think we would have beaten them either way. We gave them momentum when we didn’t need to.”

Corkman O’Rourke was delighted to get his first All-Ireland win, adding: “We played really well today and it was nice it was convincing in the end.

“It’s wonderful to be made so welcome at a great club like Royal Dublin and great to see how happy the members are to get this win.”

If the Barton Shield was something of a procession, the AIG Junior Cup final between Westport and Ulster minnows Greenisland was a heart-stopping affair decided by the fifth match on the 18th.

With the scores tied at 2-2 it became clear that it was all going to depend on the clash between Westport’s David Scott and Greenisland’s John Armstrong, a 60-year-old drafted in for the finals having not played in any of the qualifiers. He turned out to be the hero, dribbling a three-foot putt into the hole for a half in bogey and a title winning one-up win — the ball toppled in the front lip in slow motion, a la Tiger Woods’ chip in at the 2005 Masters — as Scott three-putted for the third time in a row.

Armstrong had levelled the match when Scott found water at the par five 15th. But he looked as though he would go one down at the par-three 16th when he duffed his tee shot into the River Rye but pitched to 10 feet from the drop zone and holed the putt for a half in bogey as Scott three-putted.

Armstrong then lagged a speedy, 50 footer to hole-side to secure his par five at the 17th after Scott’s similar effort slipped six feet past, leading to another three putt bogey.

Suddenly one-up playing the 18th, Armstrong bunkered his approach to the closing par-four but with Scott 50 feet above the hole in two, he splashed out to 15 feet and looked on as the Westport man three putted again, missing a five footer. Armstrong had nudged his 15-foot par putt some three feet above the hole and after what seemed like an eternity, it fell in for Greenisland’s first All-Ireland pennant.

“I played a reasonable bunker shot and then the nerves took a hold,” said Armstrong. “When I stood over that putt knowing what it meant to our little nine-hole club, I gave it too much.

When I left it above the hole — I didn’t see David missing that putt — I thought we’d be going up 19. This is ridiculous.

“I could hardly hold the club and, I thought just touch it, just let the putter head take over. I can’t believe it.

“I only got the call in Portugal a fortnight ago from young Jonathan Greer, the captain, asking me to join the team.”

In the AIG Pierce Purcell Shield semi-finals, Munster champions Thurles proved too strong for Leinster champions Grange, running out 4-1 winners thanks to three wins and two halved matches.

The Tipperary club will face Connacht champions Gort in the final after the Galway club beat Nuremore 4-1.

Meanwhile, the Golfing Union of Ireland yesterday announced the appointment of Pat Finn as its first chief executive officer. The appointment comes following an open recruitment process, and is one of the key pillars in the implementation of the union’s new strategic plan.

The former general secretary of the GUI, 39-year old Finn will now assume the new role, which will have overall responsibility for the implementation of the Strategy.

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